Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Simple Meals and the SNAP Challenge

I'm pretty proud of how I've been doing these last few weeks in terms of cooking good, simple meals and making plenty of leftovers. I changed my menu planning strategy to include lunches (I'd only ever planned for dinners before), and that made a huge difference. By looking at my menu plan and knowing that I am counting on taking leftovers for lunch, I do a much better job of cooking larger amounts of food. The middle of the week is always kind of rough- I have a lateish night on Tuesdays and a very late night on Wednesdays. So usually I throw something in the crockpot on Tuesdays, and plan ahead so I already have something for lunch on Thursday and don't have to cook anything up when I get home at 10 PM on Wednesday night.

 Making buttermilk biscuits on Saturday night. I didn't have the time to make bread (accounting for all the rising time), so this was a quick fix until I could get to it on Sunday evening.

I never buy buttermilk, but adding a tablespoon of vinegar to a cup of milk does the trick!

This week, for my nutrition class. I've been on the SNAP Challenge: having to eat for a week on a food stamp budget. (For those of you outside the US: SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and used to be called Food Stamps--it's the government's food assistance program for low-income people). SNAP benefits are issued on a monthly basis, and the average daily amount of the benefit is $4.38 per individual. It's highly highly inadequate to purchase truly healthy food, although the system is getting better and SNAP is accepted at many farmers markets now. It is, however, slightly more money than what I have budgeted for myself for food on a monthly basis. But I am very advantaged compared to many people on SNAP: I have three good grocery stores within walking distance and lots of experience of how to get healthy meals out of very little money. 

Cauliflower with melted cheese. Green onions were one of the only fresh vegetables I had the fridge when the challenge started, so I've been eating them on everything!

However, for this exercise, rather than calculate out what I could eat on $4.38 per day, I amended the challenge to mean that I couldn't buy any groceries from the time the assignment was given. I have a lot of dry bulk goods in my cupboards, but my fridge and freezer were already fairly sparse, so I figured it would be a fairly realistic challenge. Also, I've been on SNAP in the past and remember that that was usually the case: I had plenty of dry beans and rice and rolled oats, but had to plan and budget very carefully to get fruit and vegetables and meat to last the entire month.

I started to crave something sweet. These are Cape Cod oatmeal cookies with almonds and raisins, from the Fannie Farmer Cookbook

This pasta recipe is another one from Jamie's Ministry of Food. It's SO easy and really delicious.

Chickpeas for protein, with paprika and some (kind of old) chard from the community garden.

I'm eating far less fruit this week- I only had two bananas in the house, and the rest has been canned peaches. Also mostly frozen vegetables, and I am definitely eating far more bread and grains that I usually do, just to fill myself up. I've managed some good meals, but it's taken a lot of planning and calculating to spread out my protein sources through the week. I'd highly recommend trying to do this, if you aren't already living on a small budget, to get some perspective into the food situation of a huge portion of the US (and the world). I'm getting curious to find out what other people's experiences are with this.

In other news, my paperwhite bloomed this week! It smells heavenly.

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